Judicial Tenure, Removal, Immunity and Accountability

Overview

What?

  • This primer covers the rules governing the tenure, immunity, discipline and removal of judges in constitutional democracies.
  • In particular, it discusses various attempts to balance the need for judicial independence and neutrality to be balanced against judicial responsiveness and accountability.

Why?

  • The judiciary interprets the law and applies it to particular cases. An independent, politically impartial, honest and competent judiciary is necessary for the rule of law and for a strong and resilient democratic constitutional order. It is important that the mode of removing and disciplining judges help to meet these requirements.

How?

  • The independence of the judiciary from the executive and legislature, party politics, and vested interests is ensured though security of tenure, immunities and other means.
  • The need to remove corrupt, negligent and otherwise unsuitable judges is met by having a thorough, robust and politically impartial judicial disciplinary and removal process.

Where?

  • Judicial independence and accountability are concerns throughout the world. Standard methods of reconciling these concerns tend to be clustered according to civil-/common-law distinctions and presidential/parliamentary forms of government. The mechanisms of judicial discipline and removal must always fit the wider social, legal and political context.